The Digital Insights of PIAAC

A packed room turned out at the Annual State Directors Meeting to learn more about the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), the international survey of adult basic skills and competencies sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which will be released October 8, 2013.

Participants were quite surprised when presenters Eugene Owen and Stephen Provasnik, of the National Center for Education Statistics, explained that over 80% of the 5,000 adult respondents completed the assessment on computer. This was a much higher rate of basic digital literacy than the participants expected. The adaptive computer-based assessment allows the PIAAC to report a very interesting scale, Problem-Solving in Technology-Rich Environments. (See the background report on this domain.) The domain tested adults’ abilities to find, compare, and analyze information in a web-based format. By administering the assessment online, the researchers have access to the “log files” or user behaviors patterns that can reveal how adults completed the tasks, such as their speed, straightforwardness, and typing skills, yielding a new kind of analysis of digital literacy.

The presenters described how this survey will be able to give a much more detailed understanding of the skill distribution of adults at the low and high end of literacy proficiencies. The analysis will also provide a profile of how adults use skills at home, at work, and in the community as well as the training and credentials they have achieved. Also of interest were the Education and Skills Online tool and the Data Explorer both of which will be available in December of 2013. The online tool will make it possible for individuals to take the PIAAC and receive a skills profile that is benchmarked to the national and international reports. The Data Explorer will allow researchers and leaders to investigate the data online, creating tables and charts with the web-based tools.